Harness the Power of Your Cycle

As women, our bodies go through a beautiful and intricate dance every month known as the menstrual cycle. While this cycle can bring its fair share of discomfort, it also presents an opportunity for us to optimize our overall well-being by aligning our eating habits and workout routines with the hormonal shifts that occur during each phase. By understanding how our bodies change throughout the cycle and making conscious choices, we can embrace a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

Phase 1 – Your Period

So many women think that this is the time to take it easy and do light activities. That might be the case the first day, however, this is the time our bodies are the most powerful and can have some of the best workouts and athletic gains. I know I don’t always feel like getting started, but once I do – I’m faster, stronger, and feel super powerful. That is because in phase 3 and 4 of our cycle our bodies store a bit more carbohydrates in case we become pregnant. Our bodies know that if we are pregnant we will need those fast acting stores to begin making a human.

So once our bodies become aware that they don’t need to make a baby, all that stored up energy becomes ours to use to kick some serious tail in our next workouts. This energy lasts for about 1/2 the month which is great!

During phase 1 lift heavy, run fast, do speed work, and work on the things you’ve struggled with the past couple of weeks. As far as nutrition goes, your body is in prime ‘use carbohydrates as fuel’ mode. You’ll want to consume about 1-2 cups of carbs per meal, 3oz of protein, and 1/2 cup of veggies. Its always important to have carb, protein, and color on your plate.

Phase 2 – Follicular phase

Your period is over and yet you’re still in beat mode. During this phase you can continue with high intensity workouts getting stronger and faster. Continue to participate in things like strength training, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), or cardiovascular exercises can help build stamina and improve overall fitness levels. Fuel your body with complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy and support muscle recovery.

Phase 3 – Luteal phase

Ovulation usually happens during this phase and progesterone increases. It will benefit us to reduce intensity during this time, but a great time to increase endurance. Your heart rate and body temperature tends to be higher during this time. The long endurance and muscular endurance focus will still help you reach performance heart rates with a lower intensity. Working on skill and technique is a great option during this phase as well. Because of the heightened progesterone levels, it is important to focus on recover which means intentional water and protein intake/increase. Intake about 30g of protein post workout vs the 20g in the previous stage and 16oz of water pre-workout and 7-10oz of water for every 20 minutes of exercise and about 2 liters of water throughout the day. It would be great to include a sodium hydration drink during this time. My favorite is LMNT.

Phase 4 – Luteal Phase/PMS

You will have the highest progesterone and will be hard for you to train and recover at this time. It’s a great week to focus on recovery or very low-intensity workouts. Focus on stretching/foam rolling, walks, and sleep. Food-wise, you’ll follow everything from phase three. You’ll want higher protein and higher hydration. Focus on salty and watery foods like broth, feta cheese, watermelon… Reduce carbohydrates if you are taking a de-load week. Interestingly during this time, estrogen blunts your bodies ability to access carbs. This doesn’t mean we don’t need them, but we can find energy from proteins and fats during this time. Now, if you have to compete during this time – which most athletes do – it’s important that you do focus on carb intake pre, during and post workout and hit your post workout protein goal of at least 30g. You’ll also want to avoid the quick simple carb foods, anything containing fructose or maltodextrin for sure. Try to focus on starchy carbs like whole wheat pastas, grain, veggies and fruits.

Learning how our body functions as a female is the first stage to performing at our best and harnessing the power of our cycle. Each one of us is different and not all our cycles are the same length. Knowing you cycle by tracking sure does help. Another important thing to consider is supplementing with vitamin and minerals, especially for young athletes. Taking a high quality multivitamin, getting enough calcium, and omega-3/fish oils will set you up for health muscles, bones and mental clarity to compete and thrive in both life and sport.

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